Ithaca, N.Y. — Judge Joe Cassidy had started to leave the courtroom after sentencing former Cornell student Peter Mesko when he was called back by Mesko’s attorney.
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William Dreyer, Mesko’s attorney, said his client was still out on bail and did not need to be taken away immediately. Many members in a courtroom audience of over 50 people had reacted with shock as officers approached Mesko — sentenced Friday to five years on burglary and sex abuse charges — to handcuff him and take him into custody.
Someone from the audience shouted “No!” Another said, loudly, “He didn’t do anything!”
Cassidy ordered the court back in session and clarified that he was revoking Mesko’s bail and that he was to be remanded immediately. Mesko was then taken to the Tompkins County Jail, where he will stay before being entered into the New York State prison system to serve his sentence. He was not cuffed in front of the courtroom audience.
The crowd did not immediately leave the courtroom after Mesko was taken away, even though the proceedings were over. One woman in the audience could be heard crying from the hallway.
In his final statement to Cassidy, Mesko reiterated the point his attorneys had made regarding the outpouring of more than 100 letters that had been sent in to testify to his character.
After thanking his girlfriend, friends and family, some of whom he said had traveled hours to be in the court on his behalf, Mesko started to cry.
“I have dedicated my life to shedding a positive light to everyone around me,” Mesko said. “It kills me to see anyone sad or suffering.”
Mesko made no mention of the victims in his statement and spoke only to his own character.
Defense attorney Lauren Owens spoke more about the letters written on Mesko’s behalf, including one from Mesko’s academic adviser at Cornell. This adviser said Mesko did not have a sense of entitlement that often come with high-profile college sports.
Owens said Mesko’s circumstances were unique because of his youth, reputation and lack of criminal record.
In his sentencing statement, Judge Cassidy said that while he did not agree with the prosecution’s demand for a maximum sentence, neither did he agree with the defense’s demand for Mesko to receive a minimum sentence.
Cassidy spoke to Mesko’s character and the letters the court received, saying he was intelligent, successful and a good student.
“It’s clear to me that the people who know you are shocked you committed this crime,” Cassidy said.
The judge went on to address Mesko’s intoxication on the night of the incident. The judge said he believes that if Mesko had been sober that night, he would not have committed the crime. Cassidy went on to say, however, that being drunk is not an excuse.
“Alcohol is not a defense,” Cassidy said. “These are not actions society can tolerate.”
In addition to Mesko’s sentencing, the judge also granted an order of protection that will be in effect for 13 years.